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We live in an area that without question has some of the most scenic running routes in the country. Whether it’s the National Mall, the Mt. Vernon Trail, or Rock Creek Park, you are guaranteed to see beauty (and maybe a few members of Congress) on your running routes. Most of us, though, due to time constraints, end up running the path of least resistance over anything else—the familiar loop(s) along our neighborhood streets that allow us to squeeze in the requisite mileage before leaving for work in the morning. If you are tired of running the same circuitous routes every single day, check out some of our favorite running routes on the Maryland side of the river:
Lake Needwood and the Rock Creek Hiker/Biker Trail:
A portion of the trail is part of the Parks Half Marathon and includes a short, steep hill known as “the Silencer” that provides a great hill workout. (http://www.montgomeryparks.org/PPSD/ParkTrails/trails_MAPS/trailmap_pdfs/Lake_Needwood_trails.pdf). To pick up the trail where it begins at Lake Needwood, park on Needwood Lake Drive just south of the boat house.
The Millennium Trail (MT) is a 10.6-mile loop around the City of Rockville. The trail is marked and wide enough to accommodate bicyclists and runners and includes a couple of steep hills to provide some decent variation and hill training along the way. Beware, though, that the portion of the trail along Gude Drive between 355 and Norbeck is downright ugly and not as well maintained compared to the rest of the beautifully paved trail. http://www.usatf.org/routes/view.asp?rID=17280
Capital Crescent Trail (http://www.cctrail.org/)
This popular local trail can get crowded with runners, walkers, and cyclists on weekend mornings, but provides a well-marked 11-mile route from Georgetown to Silver Spring. While the majority of the trail is paved asphalt, note that the section of the trail from Bethesda into Silver Spring is crushed gravel.
C&O Canal (http://bikewashington.org/canal/canal_b.php).
Take a break from pounding the asphalt on this clay and crushed stone surface. Park at the Old Angler’s Inn and pick up the Canal here, at Mile 12.6.
Sligo Creek Trail (http://www.montgomeryparks.org/PPSD/ParkTrails/trails_MAPS/sligo.shtm)
This 10.2-mile hard surface trail runs from Silver Spring to Wheaton Regional Park.
Seneca Creek State Park (http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/seneca.aspx) provides a great option for trail running, with multiple trails within the park and connecting to the broader Seneca Creek Greenway Trail system (http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Documents/Seneca_AreaMap.pdf)
Bethesda Trolley Trail (http://www.mobilemaplets.com/showplace/4248)
Pick this trail up near the Whole Foods in North Bethesda at Edson Lane and Woodglen Drive. Once you cross the I-270 overpass, turn right to follow the trail along Fleming Avenue to continue into Bethesda.
While not quite scenic, the biking trail along the Intercounty Connector (Route 200) does provide a traffic-free, paved and relatively flat option for a running route. Park at East Norbeck Park (3131 Norbeck Road) and enter the trail at Norbeck and Wintergate Drive. Once you hit Georgia Avenue, the trail connects to the Georgia Avenue Trail along Georgia Avenue and Emory Lane.
Whichever route you choose to try, make sure you run aware and ideally with a friend or furry companion. Music, if you must run with it, should be sufficiently low for you to hear others around you. If you are trying a new route for the first time alone, let others know where you are going. Lastly, if you choose to drive to a destination to run a new route, do not leave valuables in your car while running.